Breakthrough Communities

From Urban and Industrial Environments

Breakthrough Communities

Sustainability and Justice in the Next American Metropolis

Edited by M. Paloma Pavel

Foreword by Carl Anthony

Activists, analysts, and practitioners describe innovative strategies that promote healthy neighborhoods, fair housing, and accessible transportation throughout America's cities and suburbs.





Activists, analysts, and practitioners describe innovative strategies that promote healthy neighborhoods, fair housing, and accessible transportation throughout America's cities and suburbs.

The emerging metropolitan regional-equity movement promotes innovative policies to ensure that all communities in a metropolitan region share resources and opportunities equally. Too often, low-income communities and communities of color bear a disproportionate burden of pollution and lack access to basic infrastructure and job opportunities. The metropolitan regional-equity movement—sometimes referred to as a new civil rights movement—works for solutions to these problems that take into account entire metropolitan regions: the inner-city core, the suburbs, and exurban areas. This book describes current efforts to create sustainable communities with attention to the “triple bottom line”—economy, environment, and equity—and argues that these three interests are mutually reinforcing.

After placing the movement in its historical, racial, and class context, Breakthrough Communities offers case studies in which activists' accounts alternate with policy analyses. These describe efforts in Detroit, New York City, San Francisco, Atlanta, Camden, Chicago, Los Angeles, and other metropolitan areas to address such problems as vacant property, brownfields, affordable housing, accessible transportation, community food security, and the aftermath of Katrina and September 11. The volume concludes by considering future directions for the movement, including global linkages devoted to such issues as climate change.

ContributorsCarl Anthony, Angela Glover Blackwell, Robert D. Bullard, Sheryll Cashin, Kizzy Charles-Guzmán, Don Chen, Celine d'Cruz, Amy B, Dean, Hattie Dorsey, Cynthia M. Duncan, Juliet Ellis, Danny Feingold, Deeohn Ferris, Kenneth Galdston, Greg Galluzzo, Howard Gillette Jr., David Goldberg, Robert Gottlieb, Bart Harvey, William A. Johnson Jr., Chris Jones, Van Jones, Anupama Joshi, Bruce Katz, Victoria Kovari, Mike Kruglik, Steve Lerner, Greg Leroy, Amy Liu, Stephen McCullough, Mary Nelson, Jeremy Nowak, Myron Orfield, Manuel Pastor, M. Paloma Pavel, john a. powell, Cheryl Rivera, Faith R. Rivers, Nicolas Ronderos, Rachel Rosner, David Rusk, Priscilla Salant, David Satterthwaite, Ellen Schneider, Peggy M. Shepard, L. Benjamin Starrett, Jennie Stephens, Elizabeth Tan, Petra Todorovich, Andrea Torrice, Mark Vallianatos, Robert Yaro


Out of Print ISBN: 9780262012683 488 pp. | 6 in x 9 in 6 figures, 1 table


$35.00 X ISBN: 9780262512350 488 pp. | 6 in x 9 in 6 figures, 1 table


M. Paloma Pavel

M. Paloma Pavel is Founder and President of Earth House Center in Oakland, California, which is dedicated to building multiracial leadership. She is a psychologist and international educator and the coauthor of Random Kindness and Senseless Acts of Beauty.


Carl Anthony.


  • For too long we have ignored the gap between livable cities and sustainable land use. Through stories and strategies this book weaves new possibilities for envisioning and rebuilding our urban landscape. This is a remarkable book—indeed indispensable for charting our way forward.

    Mary Evelyn Tucker

    Yale University, Forum on Religion and Ecology

  • Breakthrough Communities is an inspiring window on the metropolitan regional equity movement. This book offers a series of paths that lead us away from the despair and decline of the past, to a 21st century marked by hope, renewal, and transformation. Pavel and her colleagues show us what is actually working and what can work in cities and regions in the pursuit of racial, economic, and environmental justice. This is a powerful invitation to a world that I am aching to be a part of.

    David Naguib Pellow

    author of Resisting Global Toxics: Transnational Movements for Environmental Justice and Professor of Sociology, University of Minnesota

  • Occasionally there are books that reframe the way we think and act—and this is one of them. By seeing through a regional lens, it reveals the essential topography of our social structure and the superstructure of our environmental impacts. America's most vexing challenges and golden opportunities lie in reshaping this topography and rethinking its superstructure at a regional scale. Writing here are the leaders of a movement that will change how we address social issues and transform public policy in a systemic way. Its range and insight is breathtaking—essential reading for all concerned with social justice and environmental health.

    Peter Calthorpe

    Principal, Calthorpe and Associates and author of The Next American Metropolis

  • An epic work of vital importance to the future of America. Provides an essential and practical answer to the growing racial and class divide—the otherwise missing demographic and geographic piece of the new economy agenda.

    David Korten

    Board chair, YES! magazine and author of The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community and Agenda for a New Economy

  • As we re-imagine the future of our cities and of the planet, Breakthrough Communities offers proven strategies that demonstrate that every voice matters. These are grounded visions of hope and possibility, where social justice forges a new road for economic and environmental sustainability.

    Danny Glover

  • Breakthrough Communities showcases some of the most brilliant, innovative and creative thinkers of our time. Their innovative ideas and solutions enable us to re-imagine, not just the future of our communities and our cities, but of our planet as well.

    Belvie Rooks

    Board, Ella Baker Center for Human Rights

  • Major changes in our society often are not recognized nor understood when they are occurring. Breakthrough Communities speaks to one of these: the rapid shift from seeing the metropolitan areas as a collection of legal-political jurisdictions to an understanding of the metropolis as competing, often conflicting, sometimes cooperating communities moving toward emerging visions of equity and shared prosperity in an extraordinary diverse world. These are stories of successes in taking important steps to realize that vision. They are stories told by actual leaders in the struggles. They tell of strategies of change that work. As such this book is a must read for advocacy leaders, elected officials and average citizens trying to understand their communities.

    Parris N. Glendening

    Maryland Governor (1995-2003), and President, Smart Growth Leadership Institute

  • Often what a visionary does is not to see the future as such, but to recognize the seeds of a possible future in the present. In Breakthrough Communities, Carl Anthony and Paloma Pavel not only saw such seeds—they have cultivated them. The result is a truly visionary work in which multiple positive futures are nested in a 'solve-the-whole-problem' approach. Certainly it's a lighthouse that illuminates how cities—the make-it-or-break factor for environmental restoration—are perhaps the most fertile living laboratories of both ecological and social innovation. Certainly it illuminates the historic convergence of the two mighty rivers of the environmental and social justice movements. Certainly it illuminates how multi-cultural alliances and leadership by people of color are permanently changing the landscape of environmentalism. But more than all this, Breakthrough Communities shines with the radiant inner light of humanity that's sparking the change of heart that can truly change the course of civilization. Future generations will look back on Breakthrough Communities as the seedlings of a true revolution.

    Kenny Ausubel

    Founder and Coexecutive Director, Bioneers